Calls to harmonise treatment of unaccompanied minors

Young unaccompanied refugees playing football at a dedicated centre for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum near Geneva. Keystone

The care of unaccompanied refugee minors in Switzerland has improved but more needs to be done to ensure the long-term integration of young adults, Swiss social services said on Tuesday.

This content was published on May 15, 2018 minutes

Since the numbers of unaccompanied migrant minors coming to Switzerland surged in 2015, the support and care available to them has become more professionalised, according to a statement issued by the International Social Service of SwitzerlandExternal link (ISDS).

The organisation monitors the care of young refugees across the different regions of Switzerland. As an example of progress, they cited the now wide-spread practice of appointing a guardian who provides support and assistance to the new arrivals.

But the ISDS also noted enduring obstacles. Best practices need to be adopted by all regions to ensure the smooth and lasting integration of these young adults, it said.

+ Find out more about Switzerland’s history as an immigration country

Education barriers

Access to professional training and education remained difficult. There is a lack of long-term caregivers, and children often endure lengthy waiting periods without an appropriate structure to their days.

Another problem was the inconsistent quality of accommodation and care provided to young migrants from canton to canton. Refugee minors still have different chances of obtaining an apprenticeship and entering the work force, depending on where they live in Switzerland.

Unifying the system

Despite previous recommendations of cantonal authorities to harmonise the system, these measures have yet to be comprehensively implemented.

A unified system and improving the support provided to unaccompanied migrant minors is in everyone’s interest, added the ISDS. It would lead to higher chances of young migrants becoming financially independent and successfully integrated into Swiss society.

The International Social Services are dedicated to dealing with family problems in the context of migration, with a focus on protecting children. The Swiss branch is financed by public authorities as well as by donations. The ISDS also performs tasks with a mandate of the United Nations High Commission for RefugeesExternal link (UNHCR).

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